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    Chefs Take Their Talent to Retail

    More notables join grocerants for better hours, creative freedom.

    Chef James Montejano, a San Diego area native known for his work in Michelin-starred restaurants and with big-name partners, is making news on a smaller scale: He’s bringing restaurant-quality prepared foods to Cardiff Seaside Market.

    “Montejano’s departure from the fine dining world is not unprecedented,” reported The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Many career chefs in their 40s and 50s transition out of the field into corporate jobs because restaurant cooking is time- and labor-intensive and the financial rewards can be elusive,” with 16-hour days and late-night hours. But unlike corporate opportunities, supermarket jobs are available in most towns and cities across the country.

    For Chef Montejano, Seaside Market was a natural choice because he has done R&D work there over the years. In fact, he has created many of the store’s destination dishes, such as the fan-favorite Burgundy-pepper marinated tri-tip. The Tribune reports this steak is so addictive it’s nicknamed “Cardiff Crack.” Montejano plans to add a takeout carving station, a charcuterie program with house-smoked meats and fish, pastrami, brisket, an all-new menu of take-home items, cooking classes, wine dinners and other special events.

    Montejano’s move is part of a trend that Jeremy Johnson, education director at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA), wants to see as the norm.

    “We want grocerants to be a place where chefs want to work because of better hours, a predictable evening rush and a place where careful, creative preparation really pays off,” he says. “It’s important to attract more culinary talent for menu planning, ingredient curating, help with customer meal planning.”

    Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

    • Recruiting from local culinary programs at high school and college levels
    • Culinary competitions among staff for new recipe ideas
    • Built-in time for chefs and cooks to get out and interact with customers

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